On Tuesday evening, MSU’s Zoology Club hosted a public screening of the newly released climate-change documentary titled “Before the Flood.” The documentary featured renowned actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio as its narrator and host.
Before the Flood was revealed on Sept. 9, 2016 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It debuted on Sunday, Oct. 30, on the National Geographic Channel. Like the presidential debates, it was made available and free to view on numerous streaming platforms.
The Zoology Club President, Taylor Heid, through the National Geographic Facebook page, saw an advertisement and applied for a chance to win a screening at the university. Within two weeks, she received a response indicating she had been awarded the opportunity.
The film began with Oscar winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio informing the audience of a poster which was hung above his crib as an infant. The painting, Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, presented the 400 viewers in Ostrander Auditorium with what seemed to be the biblical narrative of Creation and the ensuing results of overconsumption and hedonism.
The painting was arranged into a triptych, or a three page pamphlet/panel type semaphore. When shut, the two front shutters displayed a perfectly serene world hallmarking natural landscapes of trees, oceans, and fruits lacking human interaction.
When opened, the inside left wing depicted God, presenting Adam with Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the center panel, “The deadly sins start to infuse their way into the painting, there’s overpopulation, debauchery and excess,” narrated DiCaprio.
The remaining inside right wing displayed a “. .. Twisted, decayed and burnt landscape. A paradise that has been degraded and destroyed,” interpreted Leo.
Like a movie trailer, the film fast forwarded to a United Nations speech Mr. DiCaprio gave in April of 2016.
The U.N. appointed “Messenger of Peace,” DiCaprio, asked the U.N. Secretary General as he approached the podium, “What specific message do you think is the most important?”
“Climate change is coming much faster,” said the Secretary General.
DiCaprio then escorted spectators through The Revenant movie production offices. As he recounted throughout the film, the production required snow to be trucked in from offsite. The location in Calgary/Alberta, Canada, experienced higher than normal temperatures and the crew had to be relocated to the lower tip of Argentina.
“If we’re going to fight climate change effectively, we have to start by acknowledging that most of our economy is based on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels include coal, oil and natural gas. Oil powers most of the transportation sector, coal and natural gas powers most of the electricity.” Said Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is an environmental non-profit organization that aims to preserve the natural environment and fights for earth friendly policies and renewable energy.
Extreme sources of retrieving fossil fuels like mountain top removal for coal, fracking for natural gas, off-shore drilling for oil, and tar sands whose outcomes reduce forest areas and pollutes waters, ultimately affect the environment’s natural processes of recycling carbon. The over-abundance of carbon dioxide elements now increases the greenhouse effect in our atmosphere.
While visiting a tar sand-pit in Alberta, Canada, DiCaprio describes the landscape, “Kinda looks like Mordor, from Lord of the Rings.”
Audience members were taken through the effects of climate change, as described by Al Gore in the late 1990’s.
“All of our modes of transportation, the way we grow our food and the way we build our cities, everything releases carbon dioxide. And that leads to climate change; the polar ice caps will melt, the seas will start to rise, there will be more dangerous weather patterns, floods, droughts, wildfires.” Recounts DiCaprio.
The 90 minute documentary then hosted audience members through beautiful yet suffering landscapes around the world. From secluded regions like the Canadian Artic, Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to densely populated China and it’s 9000 factories who all produce products for the western hemisphere.
European countries like Spain, Italy, and Denmark were credited with having near or 100 percent renewable energy capabilities. Though their small populations were not mentioned, I think it makes efforts more tangible.
Environmental activists, subject matter experts, entrepreneurs, politicians, and even the Pope himself made cameos in “Before the Flood,” all speaking of its gravity.
“I thought the documentary did an exceptional job on educating viewers on what is happening with global warming and how it’s affecting not only the U.S., but other countries as well. The one thing that stood out to me is that Americans are behind on sustainable energy and are continuing to drag other countries down with their use of green-house gases. Leonardo did a great job putting this all together. I highly recommend that everyone watch this,” said Faseka Tamerat, a student who attended the screening.
Three course professors offered students extra credit to attend the screening. All 349 seats were occupied with many sitting or standing in the back of the auditorium. I noticed young children and more developed community members in the audience as well.
“I was blown away with how many people showed up!” exclaimed the Zoology Club President, Taylor Heid.
At the end of the documentary, a few steps were presented on how to take action regarding climate change.
Besides imposing a Carbon Tax, which would tax users of fossil fuels, documentary filmmakers suggested consuming differently. What you buy, what you eat, and how you get your power (electricity) are initial changes and inquiries we should be asking ourselves. Voting for leaders who will fight to end fossil fuel subsidies, investing in renewable energies was also noted.
After viewing the film, a six person panel consisting of professors and politicians, offered a Q & A session. Nearly 100 event attendees remained in the audience and inquired on how each of the panel members were personally making a difference through their lifestyle. One audience member asked about the lower and middle class and the expense of selecting the right products as consumers; “Energy Poverty” was a concept broached by one panel member. The university’s methods of reducing its carbon footprint was also questioned.
“I would love for the zoology club to continue hosting events like this. One of our main goals is to educate the public. So, whether that be hosting more screenings of films, information booths on campus, or bringing in speakers, starting that conversation on issues we are passionate about will definitely be in our future.” Said Heid.
“You will either be lauded by future generations, or vilified by them,” said DiCaprio, in his speech and closing remarks to the United Nations representatives, in April of 2016.